Changing the way we find, reference, and talk about the law

Changing the way we find, reference, and talk about the law

Summary: Tim O'Reilly and John Markoff have good writeups on public.resource.

Changing the way we find, reference, and talk about the law
Tim O'Reilly and John Markoff have good writeups on, which aims among other things to create "an unencumbered repository of all [U.S.] federal and state case law and codes." In a letter to legal publisher Thomson/West, President and CEO Carl Malamud seeks clarity as to the extent of the copyrights the publisher will assert in these works. Thomson told John Markoff: "We have received the letter from Public Resource and Mr. Malamud raises a number of interesting but complex points. We are looking at them now and then will be in touch directly with Mr. Malamud." It's expensive to hire a good lawyer, and big-ticket overhead items such as the high cost of commercial legal research databases have much to do with this. In his very rationally presented letter, Mr. Malamud attempts to assure Thomson that the market for its sophisticated commercial services is likely to grow, not shrink, as the source materials become more widely available. In the near term, he may be right. In the long term, when the successors of and Tim Wu's AltLaw ultimately make public case and statutory law searchable and cut-and-pasteable, and things like pagination morph into things like URIs, that's a wrap for services like Westlaw and Lexis. Unless they figure out ways to do it first, better, and for free — but I wouldn't bet on it. As Markoff writes:
The unifying vision of all of the challengers to the current system is a Wikipedia-like effort to make the nation’s laws freely searchable by Internet search engines. They believe this will lead to a public system of annotation of the laws by legal scholars as well as bloggers, giving the American public much richer access to the nation’s laws.
See also: Everything is Miscellaneous (Thanks, John Vaccaro!)

Topic: Legal

Denise Howell

About Denise Howell

Denise Howell is an appellate, intellectual property and technology lawyer who enjoys broad industry recognition for her expertise on the intersection of emerging technologies and law.

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  • Saying it doesn't make it so...

    If Mr. Malamud is responsible for prodding the SEC into developing EDGAR for the American people, I give him great respect and admiration. We use it several times a day and so do many investors.

    But his principal argument in his open letter to West--that law should be available for free to all the people--falls on deaf ears. The law [i]is[/i] available for free in every county and state courthouse library, every state owned law school, every prison, and most public libraries, as well. The taxpayer has paid for this information, it's indexing, printing and storage already, many times over. Most all of the states have put up their statutes for free on the web, and other reliable institutions (Cornell, etc.) have put up the U.S. Code.

    It's clear what intellectual property West owns in the USCA and the National Reporter series: the Synopsis, the Keynumbers, the Headnotes, and the jump pages. Malamud has devised a solution for which there is no problem.

    As one wise man said, "Where's the beef?"
  • "John Markoff" and "good writeup"

    That's not a combination you find very often in the same sentence. In fact, the only other way I can figure out how to put them in the same sentence is, "So-and-so had a good writeup on how John Markoff, George Ou, and Ed Bott are the worst writers in the tech industry."